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PFebruary 11, 2013

Can You Get More Green with Less Green?

What comes to mind when you hear SUSTAINABILITY?
What comes to mind when you hear GREEN DESIGN?
What comes to mind when you hear LED LIGHTING?

A lot of the same thoughts likely come up as you ask yourself these questions, and chances are, two thoughts are consistent with all three questions.  How much more is this going to cost, and is it worth it in the long run? Can you get more green with less green?

Everyone today wants to know the cost analysis on going green. In analyzing this topic, I narrowed my research to LED lighting, which has seen leaps and bounds since it’s first practical use in 1976 for the telecommunication field.  It has moved into every facet of our rapidly moving society, from your bedside clock to airport runways. LEDs are emerging everywhere, and the past 5-10 years have seen a major push into the residential and commercial lighting industry.

What is causing this new craze for LED lighting, especially in sustainable green designEFFIENCY is the first and most important buzzword that comes to mind with LED.  According to Daniel Wyatt of Blake and Vaughn Engineering, “ LED lights have the greatest lumens/watt output compared to incandescent and fluorescent light.” (Lumen, a measure of the total amount of visible light emitted from a source, and watt, a measure of energy conversion).  This will directly affect the operating temperatures, which give the light more energy efficiency, and ultimately a longer lifespan or time efficiency. LED lights are environmentally friendly to dispose of opposed to ballasted lights, which require special disposal fees.

As with every positive, there comes a negative. With LEDs, the overwhelming negative is the initial cost of the light. However, major manufacturers, due to their refocusing major funds to LED research and development, are quickly offsetting these costs (Philips). Color and uniformity of light has also played in the LED dispute. Early designs emitted “cold, blue” light. This has been changed through the use of lenses and different gases to produce a “warm, yellow” light very comparable to most incandescent or fluorescent lights.

60_LED_3W_Spot_Light_eq_25WNow that the pros and cons have been discussed, the true question reemerges. How much and for what period of time?  Of course you want your place of work to be an inviting and productive environment: whether is it a kindergarten classroom or a major office building, there has to be an acceptable medium between cost and aesthetics. Steve Marshall of Independence LED Lighting uses three factors to determine your LED needs: economics, aesthetics, and compatibility. As you sit and analyze these topics, do not forget upfront cost, operating cost, maintenance cost, and disposal cost. Although your initial cost may be high and scare owners away, it is paramount to analyze the lifecycle cost. Currently, according to James Lawrence of Moeckel Carbonell Associates, “ the pay back period on most LED projects is around 5 years.”

EDiS Company and Colonial Parking are currently conducting their own study on LEDs at Ships Tavern Parking Garage since 2010. Over the past three years, the parking garage has replaced up to 95% of their fluorescent fixtures with LEDs. This has contributed a 26% decrease in yearly energy bills from 2010-2012. This does not include the fact that the manager of the building, James Green, has reported that, since switching to LEDs, he has yet to replace a burned-out bulb, compared to the old fluorescents in which he replaced an average of 20 per month.

You may be thinking that makes sense; a parking garage that is open 24/7 would have no problem utilizing LED. The lights are on for the majority of the day and light color is no big deal. What about utilizing LED in schools? The District Administrator of Appoquinimink School District, Bob Hershey, is currently replacing fluorescent and incandescent fixtures in a number of his schools to LED. He has found in blind studies that students and teachers do not notice the difference between the old with the new LED. Bob has stated, “To make LED cost effective you must include computer control lighting or occupancy sensors.” He likes to call it “Going green in two ways”; although the upfront cost is high, the payback and the environmental stewardship pay for its self.

Ultimately, on the initial purchase of LED lights you will be spending more green to get green. As time passes, however, the scales will tip in the opposite direction, eventually achieving your original goal of getting more green with less green.


Lighting Comparison
(provided by Indepedence LED Lighting)

LED Comparison Chart


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